State to unleash moth to combat invasive species

Fireweed toxic to livestock; infected 850,000 acres on Maui, Big Island

Published  1:09 PM HST Dec 13, 2012
HONOLULU -

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture has obtained approval from the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to release the Arctiidae moth to combat the spread of Fireweed, an invasive pest that is toxic to livestock, Sen. Daniel Inouye announced Wednesday.

Fireweed is an invasive weed from Madagascar which has infected an estimated 850,000 acres primarily on Maui and Hawaii Island.  Fireweed has no natural predators in Hawaii, is resistant to drought, and if left unchecked, could spread to an additional 1.5 million acres in the next ten years.

"For the last decade, Hawaii’s cattle industry has been combating Fireweed.  Due to the scope of Fireweed's spread, chemical sprays are not feasible or economical.  I want to express my gratitude to the State Department of Agriculture and to the USDA-APHIS for working together to approve the release of this bio-control moth that will help to control this invasive flower.  It is my hope that this effort will help to ensure that Hawaii’s cattle industry will continue to thrive and help the state move toward greater food self sufficiency," said Sen. Inouye.

It is believed that Fireweed arrived in Hawaii in the 1980s.

Each Fireweed flower produces 30,000 seeds per year which are easily spread by wind, hiking boots, vehicles, and animals.  The Arctiidae moth is also native to Madagascar and feeds on Fireweed.

The state continues to research other animals that could be used to further disrupt Fireweed’s spread.

Jill Kuramoto will have more on this tonight on KITV4 News at 5.

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